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Dr. Scott A. Wright, assistant professor of
marketing

Faculty Grants Support Research on Product Choice, More

Why would consumers say they want to buy environmentally sustainable products, but not actually follow through?

That’s what Dr. Scott A. Wright, assistant professor of marketing, hopes to find out. His research on product choice is one of 15 projects funded by grants from Providence College’s Committee on Aid to Faculty Research (CAFR).

Since the program began 40 years ago, the College has awarded more than $1.9 million to faculty conducting original research. This year, 17 faculty received more than $80,000.

Through his project, “The Effects of Disorganization, Familiarity, and Boundaries on Sustainable Product Choice,” Wright wants to determine whether and why consumers  experience uncertainty when considering purchases of sustainable products.

“Consumers infer that sustainable products may be inferior in terms of their performance. This uncertainty may help explain the disconnect between attitudes towards sustainable products and actual purchasing behavior,” Wright said. “Moreover, anything that alleviates this uncertainty could be enough to encourage consumers to purchase sustainable products.” 

In preliminary experiments, Wright established this link between sustainability and uncertainty. When familiar brands incorporate sustainable attributes, “people feel uneasy — they’re not sure what’s going on.”

Wright hopes to further explore the nature of this relationship and its effect on consumer purchasing decisions using online experiments and a field study conducted in a grocery store. His $4,500 grant will be used to hire a research assistant and to buy gift cards to encourage participation in his studies.

Dr. Martin D. Saltzman, professor of natural science in chemistry, was inspired to take on his project, “Public Knowledge of Chemistry in the United States from 1846-1876 as Found in Scientific American from its Founding in 1846 to the American Centennial of 1876,” after he stumbled upon some old bound volumes of the magazine that the Phillips Memorial Library was throwing away. 

His $3,000 grant allowed him to hire Faith Donaghey ’14 (Newington, Conn.) as a research assistant, and together they are cataloging the stories about chemistry they find in issues of the magazine.

“I am really interested in what the editors of Scientific American thought was most important in terms of pure and applied chemistry in this crucial period in the development of science in the United States, and that an interested public should know about,” Saltzman said.

In addition to Wright and Saltzman, the following professors have received awards: 

• Dr. Nuria Alonso García, associate professor of Spanish and Dr. Alison Caplan, assistant professor of Spanish, $7,095 for “Neighboring Cultures: A Vocabulary of ‘la frontera.’”

• Dr. Comfort M. Ateh, assistant professor of education, $2,750 for “Pre-service Teachers' Evolving Knowledge and Practice of Formative Assessment.”

• Dr. David B. Baier, assistant professor of biology, $8,719 for “Skeletal Motion of the Zebra Finch During Flight.”

• Dr. Eric D. Bennett, assistant professor of English, $5,239 for “Workshops of Empire: Creative Writing and the Cold War.”

• Dr. Eliane M. Boucher, assistant professor of psychology, $7,500 for “Social Anxiety and the Social Surrogate Hypothesis: A Naturalistic Examination Using a Daily Diary Method.” 

• Dr. Anthony K. Jensen, associate professor of philosophy, $5,565 for “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life: A Reader's Guide.”

• Dr. Christopher M. Laperle, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, $3,150 for “Investigations of the Solvent-dependent Reaction Dynamics of Iron Pentacarbonyl.”

• Heather McPherson, assistant professor of art, $3,504 for “Masks and Brains: Painting Consciousness.”

• Dr. Ann W. Norton, professor of humanities in art history, and Eric Sung, associate professor of photography, $6,500 for “Photographing Art Deco in Rhode Island.”

• Dr. Kevin J. O'Connor, assistant professor of education, $2,500 for “Anticipating College: Perspectives of High School Students with Learning Disabilities.”

• Rev. David T. Orique, O.P., assistant professor of history, $4,400 for “Dominicans in the Early and Late Atlantic World.”

• Dr. Kenneth R. Overly, associate professor of chemistry, $7,800 for “Synthesis of Terpene-Derived Ketone and Iminium Salt Catalysts from Enantioselevtive Olefin Epoxidation.” 

• Dr. Jeffrey D. Pugh, assistant professor of political science, $7,852 of “Survey of Human Security and Network Connectedness of Columbians in Ecuador.”

 

— Liz F. Kay

 

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